15 Aug 2023

Why direct equity investment is hard

Exhibit 1: A fairly well written analysis claims that Sundar Pichai is no visionary: Is there more to Alphabet than Google Search? Quoting from this article:

[Sundar Pichai] has played a significant role in building the core business, which he ran even before taking over as Alphabet’s CEO in 2019. But he is no visionary.

Google developed the Chrome browser, Chrome OS, and Chromebook laptops under Sundar’s leadership. Unless you knew this history — which goes back to late 2000s and early 2010s — it’s very hard to reject this article.

Exhibit 2: An opinion piece that narrates how Chromebooks stole iPad’s market share in a big way: I used to work for Apple and watched it lose the K-12 education market to Google. Now it could lose the next generation of fans. This article doesn’t mention Sundar’s name but it’d be a mistake to assume that Google may have done this all without Sundar’s leadership.

But Chrome is just 1 product line. We also have the benefit of hindsight to say that Chromebooks will continue to compete in the market for a while.

An investor backing Google in the recent past may have had to bet that Google Cloud would turn things around, when it was still making loss after loss every quarter. Investors today will have to believe that Waymo can actually make money when most other self-driving car projects are struggling or being shut down.

Irrespective of how much you know about a company or industry, you’re going to bet blindly at times. Bet blindly a nontrivial portion of your equity portfolio, because otherwise the investment returns don’t move the needle for your wealth. Anyone who cannot do that are better off staying away from direct equity investments.

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